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Local vs. Organic SEO: What’s the Difference?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is core to the essence of modern marketing. With almost 2 billion websites on the internet and rising, it’s necessary for virtually every digital strategy.

Smaller companies often need to choose the most cost-effective solutions available. The good news is that SEO practices are easy to implement, and are often incredibly low cost.

Today we want to discuss two types of SEO: local SEO and organic SEO. Read on to learn the ways these terms differ, as well as where they overlap.

The Basics of Organic SEO

Organic SEO is the practice of optimizing a site to attract clicks from what is called organic traffic. While not the only element of SEO, it is what most newcomers imagine when discussing SEO practices.

This kind of SEO is about unpaid, algorithm-driven results rather than the more traditional paid approach to marketing. The goal is for someone to search a term related to your business and have your website appear as one of the first results (i.e., appear organically). 

This organic traffic results in an extremely cost-effective flow of website traffic. Once your website ranks for a given keyword, your site will often require only basic upkeep to continue ranking for that term.

Note that the traffic is unpaid, but that many businesses still contract marketing companies or freelance writers to produce their SEO content. As long as a company can make back their money in new traffic and thus new clients, this approach to organic SEO remains effective.

The Importance of Keywords

Almost any list of SEO tips will emphasize the importance of keywords and for good reason. Identifying the popular keywords appropriate to your business model is essential for attracting not just traffic – but the right traffic.

Using random keywords with a high search volume tends to be ineffective. This is because ranking for an irrelevant word rarely results in site visits from people who you have a genuine chance of converting into clients. 

Instead, it is important that a business try and rank for terms related to their model. A company selling skateboards, for example, may try to rank for “skateboard parts” or “how to fix skateboards.”

Visitors searching these kinds of terms likely have an interest in the company’s products and thus their traffic is of more value than a random visitor. 

The Challenge of Keyword Difficulty 

One issue with organic SEO practices can arise from keyword difficulty (KD). This is the score assigned to keywords, with a higher score meaning the word is more difficult to rank for.

Above a KD of 30 or so, it becomes difficult for most small businesses to meaningfully rank for the keyword. This is a sign the term has significant competition. Ranking for difficult keywords is often time-consuming and expensive (if it is possible at all).

Knowing the types of keywords your company can rank for is sometimes a challenge. Sticking to easy keywords that remain relevant to your business is often the most cost-effective approach for smaller, newer companies.

Another factor to consider is a keyword’s popularity. Some keywords may be popular but also difficult to rank for. In some cases, pushing to rank for these keywords can be cost-effective, even if it is initially resource intensive.

One way of reducing the difficulty of ranking for a keyword is to aim for what is called “long-tail keywords.” This term applies to long keywords. Longer terms are almost always less competitive, but can still be useful if you target the terms that your potential customers might search.

What Makes Local SEO Different?

Local SEO is a more specific term than organic SEO. It is relevant to businesses who find it difficult to rank for terms that apply to their model. Businesses with physical locations can see many benefits from engaging in this type of SEO.

As discussed in the section above, short keywords tend to be difficult to rank for. Moreover, broad keywords such as “computer store” also tend to be very difficult, especially if a big corporation operates in the niche the keyword applies to.

Local SEO is the practice of aiming to rank for “local keywords.” As the term implies, a local keyword is a keyword relevant to those in a certain area, but irrelevant to those farther away. 

For example, let us assume one runs a computer store in Columbus, Ohio. While it might help that individual’s business to rank for “computer store,” much of that traffic would be irrelevant. Traffic from people fifty miles or more away is unlikely to result in their visiting the store.  

While “computer store” is a broad, difficult term to rank for “computer store in Columbus” or “computer store in Ohio” are both much easier. This is local SEO, identifying a term that is likely to have a moderate amount of people searching it but is specific enough to your area that competition is low.

The more specific the term, the less traffic it attracts but also the less competition you can expect. If you cannot rank for your state, try ranking for the county or town your business operates in.

Potential Drawbacks of Local SEO

Local SEO is often an excellent strategy for a business to engage in but it has its drawbacks. Specificity reduces the traffic a term is going to attract. Moreover, some businesses may not need or even want their site visitors to come from a specific area.

For example, imagine a digital marketing company. Much of their work can be done online and for clients in almost any country that speaks the same language as the company’s experts. 

This company might still benefit from local SEO, as traffic specific to certain areas of the world can still help their business. However, they should likely not engage in local SEO exclusively. Broader terms have the potential to attract more traffic still relevant to their model.

Want Help With SEO?

At, we can help you supplement your organic SEO traffic with content, which helps your website rank highly over time.

If you want to learn more, read about our model! Then you can sign-up so we can begin a symbiotic relationship, which includes receiving niche relevant content for your site that we pay you to post.

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